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January 10, 2001 - January 12, 2001

Additional day's water cut in Rajkot from Jan 16 Friday, January 12, 2001

RAJKOT: The city will have an additional day's water cut with effect from January 16, said municipal commissioner J P Ghota on Thursday.

The additional water cut would be zone wise. The city is presently supplied water on every alternate day for 25 minutes but now it would be on every third day.

Ghota told reporters that the city was presently getting 155 lakh gallons of water from Nyari 2, Aji 3 and Demi 1 dams besides getting water from Wankaner bore project.

The entire quota was being distributed and there was no scope for any extra storage to meet any eventuality. He said the present arrangement will remain in force till February 28 when the water situation would be reviewed once again.

To begin with, ward number 13, 15 and 16 would not be supplied water on January 16 and from then on every zone would be covered under the additional cut.

With this additional cut, there would be scope for having an extra storage of water to meet any contingency, Ghota said. However, the concerning part is that even Nyari 2 would get dry within the next 15 days and then the real test would begin for water distribution.

Swami Vivekananda's little known sojourn Friday, January 12, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Perhaps not many Amdavadis are aware of the fact that Swami Vivekanada had visited the city in 1819, prior to his sojourn to the West. Here, he spent time at the Hutheesing Jain derasar reading Jain texts and discussing Jainism with monks.

He was spotted at the Kalupur Railway Station by Lalshankar Umiyashankar Desai who, impressed by Swamiji's knowledge and vision, brought him to his house as guest. The house originally a seven-storyed haveli today stands tucked in one corner of Amrutlal ni pol in Khadia. According to biographies published by Ramkrishna Mission, Swami Vivekanada had stayed here for a week, before proceeding to Saurashtra.

Says Manish Desai, great-grandson of Lalshankar Umiyashankar, "It's a matter of pride for, not just our family, but the entire Khadia locality that such a great nationalist and spiritual leader had stayed here. My grandmother used to often tell us of Swamiji's stay at our home." According to Desai, young Lalshankar Umiyashankar was under constant financial constraint to complete his studies. "His hard work resulted in success. He became a reputed mathematician, having authored several text books on mathematics, and was later appointed a sub-judge. He had bought this house from Amrutlal Dewan," says Desai.

A philanthropist, Lalshankar Umiyashnakar is credited of establishing an Islamic school for Muslim girls, Mahipatram orphanage, organisations dedicated to the welfare of Harijans and several charitable and educational institutions in the city. He had even established an orphanage in Pandaharpur in Maharashtra. During Swami Vivekananda's stay here, he had facilitated Swamiji's interaction with the leaders of the reformist movements in Gujarat.

A heritage walk organised to celebrate 50 years of independence had included this house in the itinerary. However, in the current heritage walk organised by Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, the house has been omitted.

During his tour throughout Gujarat, Swami Vivekananda had stopped over at Wadhawan and Limdi, after his stay at Ahmedabad. According to a biography of Thakore Saheb Jaswant Singhji, prince of Limdi published in Gujarati in 1896 it was in Gujarat that Swamiji first got the idea of going abroad and enlightening the western mind about the spiritual essence of Indian culture.

MSU stands as a family as NAAC stalks the campus Wednesday, January 10, 2001

VADODARA: A forgotten project that might give the commerce faculty the cutting edge that it so badly requires and turn it into an on-line faculty, evoked curiosity of the National Accreditation and Assessment Committee (NAAC) that met the MSU syndicate.

The on-line commerce faculty (OCF) project came into discussion almost accidentally when one of the NAAC members inquired about MSU's activities in the field of IT.

The OCF project was born out of concern of lack of attendance in the faculty and the dominance of tuition classes for commerce students in city.

The project, conceived three years ago during the tenure of vice-chancellor Padma Ramchandran, envisaged supplementing the regular classes in commerce faculty with on-line classes. It advocated developing of software packages in all subjects related to commerce education besides providing commerce faculty students the facility to appear for exams and take classes on-line.

"We had prepared the project in early 1997. It was to catapult commerce faculty into a mini-on-line college," syndicate member Casim Unia told The Times of India. Unia had played a pivotal role in the said project.

He said that under the project, four on-line classrooms were to be set up and a major computerisation work was to be initiated in the commerce faculty. "The project was conceived well. Even the funding agency was identified and convinced," Unia said. He asserted that the Saudi Arabia embassy had shown willingness to fund the project.

However, the project was never executed for one or the other reason. "It never became a reality but it is still feasible," Unia opined.

Meanwhile, the M S University stood as one family when the NAAC team visited the campus on Monday. The barometer for that family feeling was the MSU syndicate and the way it conducted itself.

The meeting had syndicate member Casim Unia talking about Jung Bahadur Rajput - not for mudslinging or trading charges but for seniority and experience. It also saw the witty Narendra Parmar converting anti-varsity sentiments of some members into 'a must' in a democratic set up. And then there were those like social work faculty dean Anil Navle talking about achievements and the supposedly state government coterie member Pragnesh Shah giving information about commerce faculty. For once the differences of syndicate members were put behind and team spirit took the front seat.

Each syndicate member was asked to make a presentation on a particular issue concerning the university. I Pandya, for instance, spoke about development fees.

Incidentally, Pandya was the trend-setter in collection of development fees from teachers. After its success with teachers, the plan was implemented among students. The MSU now earns a revenue of Rs 70 lakh per annum from the scheme.

Pandya also emphasised that the UGC should impress upon the state government to raise the maintenance fees for MSU.

The nine-member NAAC team was seemingly impressed and had some suggestions for the MSU. "They suggested introduction of semester system in science faculty courses and integration of BSc and MSc to fashion a five-year programme. They also quizzed us on funding and the developments in wake of the prominence given to IT," said a syndicate member.

In their visits to various departments, the NAAC members interacted with teachers. "They talked about subjects, projects, grants and overall development," said a science faculty teacher.

Surat airport encounters turbulence Wednesday, January 10, 2001

AHMEDABAD: For years the trade and industry of Surat, not to mention the common people have been crying hoarse for a domestic airport and earlier last year chief minister Keshubhai Patel seemed to have oblidged by roping in Globetrotters, to chalk out the expansion plan of the existing strip in Magdalla to a full scale international airport.

However, a year down the line, Globetrotter, the firm which claims major involvement in the development of O'Hare airport in Chicago, is still globetrotting and not reached south Gujarat. In fact the government is still not sure what it wants to do with the airstrip outside Surat.

For starters the Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board is still to get orders to fund a operations-marketing survey which preceeds an investment of this magnitude.

Says managing director of the Gujarat Infrastructure Investment Corportation, Hasmukh Adhia, we are looking at an investment of over Rs 1000 crore and before starting on a project of this size we have to make sure its viability, operational and marketing plans and a full proof revenue model.

But admitted Ravi Saxena, managing director of the GIDB, there has been some correspondence but we have not yet been approached to finance a survey.

But, Adhia is optimistic that the project will eventually take off. Once the survey is done (it will take a minimum of one year) we will invite bids on a Build Operate and Transfer or other arrangement and then the bidder will be awarded the rights to develop the airport.

But that is talking in terms of years, at least five to six, and that too if the government vigorously works on the project and starts work on it right away, a top government official admitted. But sadly, the official said, that is not happening.

As of now the government has sanctioned Rs 5.5 crore to secure the boundary wall of the air-strip, make a functional building terminal and extend the airstrip by about 50 mt to make way for small aircraft of upto 50 seat capacity.

But a lot needs to be done, Adhia said. The airport was earlier used for short-fuselage air-taxi planes which connected Surat with Saurashtra and Mumbai but as there were no takers the services was stopped.

Surat, he said does not have a captive market of its own and Mumbai is close by so Suratis dont mind taking a train to Mumbai. But he said Surat-Delhi sector could hold some promise but that was not enough to sustain a big investment.

In fact local MP and union textiles minister Kashiram Rana, who has been demanding the airport for many years now, says Jet Airways was keen to start a 70 seater Mumbai-Surat-Bhavnagar-Rajkot service.

However, Adhia said we need to look at bigger possibilities to make the project viable. For example Surat could develop into a parking facility to take the load of the saturated Mumbai airport and planes can come in the evening to Surat and fly-back to Mumbai in the morning. A sort of international hub which provides cheap parking, repairs and maintanence to international airlines.

Then, he said the airport could also develop into a air-cargo centre and the city being on the trunk rail and road links between Gujarat and Mumbai could boost revenues. But he said these aspects will be looked into by the consultancy firm which will survey the feasibility of the Surat airport.

However, top government sources said that Surat is already late for such a business model because Andhra Pradesh is already developing a international hub and the proposed airport at Bangalore is expetced to take a lot of load from Mumbai. In fact Mumbai itself is looking to have a third airport, the source added.

On the other hand is the issue of expansion of the Ahmedabad and Baroda airports and there seems to be little left over for a spanking new facility for Surat.

But feasibility studies notwithstanding the proposed airport at Surat has more hurdles. The biggest is the war of egos between kashiram Rana and Keshubhai Patel and the writs filed by people of Bhimpore-Magdalla against the government move to acquire additional land and the fast losing momentum of the diamond polishing and textile processing industry which helped Surat grow faster than any other city in Asia in the last decade and a half.

Jamwadi without VMC water for over a month Wednesday, January 10, 2001

VADODARA: Residents of Jamwadi in Sayajigunj, one of the oldest areas of the city, are on the brink of despair. Though they pay water tax, they are not getting water from the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) pipeline for over a month.

Residents here are depended on the 'bambas' for water. A long queue gathers in the area around 10 am. "People push and try to get to the front. This results in arguments. Sometimes things get out of control," says Lachi Rabari. She admits that fights and abuses among the residents have become a common feature.

However, people say that they don't get water from the 'bambas' regularly. "There are times when the officials forget to send tanker to the area. We have to continuously remind them, lest they should forget. Yet, there are days when we had to do without water," says another resident Narain Rabari.

The Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) had removed their water pipeline in order to construct a road. It's been more than a month, but they have not been given a new connection. Yet they have to regularly pay water tax.

Earlier, there were two hand-pumps in the area. But one of the hand-pumps was removed to ensure smooth flow of traffic. Nearly 130-odd residents here are dependent on water from hand-pumps. They use this water for taking bath, washing clothes and rinsing utensils.

But residents complain that the water they get from the hand-pump is extremely dirty. It can neither be used for drinking nor washing clothes. "Though water is extremely dirty, we are forced to bathe with this water. But often my children complain of itching after taking bath with this water," complains Lachi Rabari.

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